Some Thoughts on Last Night

Last night was a surprise to many -- not in the sense that the day before it was inconceivable that a Republican could win in Massachusetts, because it was becoming increasingly evident in the waning days of the campaign that he had a serious shot at winning, but rather because Republicans have had such difficulty in federal elections in the state in recent years (notwithstanding their very real ability to win in non-federal gubernatorial elections, including every one from 1990 to 2002).

But watching Scott Brown's press conference this morning, it's easy to see why voters found him to be compelling. He, like few others, was able to appeal to all sides without firmly placing himself in either camp. Conservatives will claim him as one of their own, and his victory was no doubt significantly aided by the widespread support of an emboldened Right. Yet at the same time, Brown was not antagonistic, stating during the campaign and since that his election was not a referendum on Barack Obama, not running any ads on the topic of healthcare reform (which is understandable given the difficult position the combination of Republican opposition to reform with Brown's previous support for a similar measure put him in).

So my first thought is, it will be very interesting to see how Brown is able to maintain his balance. He did so far this morning in his press conference, projecting at once the populist sentiment that helped draw him strong supporters -- but also the conciliatory tone that made him palatable to a great number of Independent and even Democratic voters. But as difficult as this is on a rhetorical level (and I don't mean to understate its difficulty), when the votes actually start coming on tough issues and Brown will either have to assert himself as someone willing to deal (which could depress his base) or as someone unwilling to deal (which could make him unelectable come 2012), it won't be nearly as easy to appeal to everyone.

That said, while Brown's victory may not have charted a legislative path for his party, it appears to have charted an electoral one: Say enough to fire up the base, but not so much as to turn off swing voters. The folks at First Read have it right: "In fact, this serves as a bit of a warning for national Republicans: Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and now Scott Brown won not by attacking Obama, but rather by downplaying their GOP ties and riding an anti-incumbent wave. None of them went out of their way to attack Obama; the national party wants the media to believe this is a referendum on Obama, but the campaigns themselves were referendums on the political process -- whether in Washington, Richmond, Trenton, or Beacon Hill."

For the Democrats, it's clear that running as the establishment isn't going to work in 2010. Voters are in an anti-incumbent mood (see not only Jon Corzine but also Mike Bloomberg), and aren't going to be warm to coronations. What's more, running is necessary. Martha Coakley held, through the Sunday before election day, less than one-third of the events Brown did, holding 19 events after the primary compared to the 62 held by Brown. The electorate isn't going to simply hand Democrats victories. It's not going to happen. (Similarly, maligning star athletes from the city probably isn't going to woo many voters.)

But beyond that, and on to policy, my sense is that the Democrats are going to take the licks they're going to take, and that as much as legislators believe they can inoculate themselves by voting "no", if there is an anti-Democratic sentiment in 2010 there's going to be an anti-Democratic sentiment that hits just about everyone regardless of their votes. No doubt the Democrats are in a dire position. But it's hard to envision a situation in which getting less done -- particularly not passing healthcare reform, and fast -- helps the party electorally. Voters aren't clamoring for a continuation of the current situation in the country, they are clamoring for change. And change doesn't occur by sitting on one's hands.

So it should not surprise you that I'm still in the camp including Josh Marshall, Ezra Klein and a great many others who believe the best course of action for the Democrats to pass healthcare reform -- and fast -- then move on. There is simply no political upside in getting nothing done.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

Tags: MA-Sen, healthcare reform (all tags)



Completely Agree

I worked on the Hill in 1994 and on that healthcare reform effort.  If the Dems don't follow through on healthcare at this point (they are already on record voting for it), it will be worse than if they do pass it.  Also, they will be unable to pivot to other issues b/c healthcare will be hanging over the heads with the Rs, the press and the voters.  History shows weakness doesn't work but strength in adversity does.

I liken the Dems situation to a swimmer being circled by a shark.  If you panic and start splashing around the shark will attack.  If you stay calm and still there is a better than 50-50 the shark will go away.  Better to stay calm and stay the course than panic and try to run away.


by jmnyc 2010-01-20 12:44PM | 1 recs
I disagree

Passing this reform bill will be seen as ramming it down the throats of voters. Even NY Congress Weiner, a liberal who supports healthcare made the statement that voters are obviously unhappy and we need to take a step back. Trying to pass this bill if it were to succeed will only piss off voters even further. And the fact that this bill is so deeply flawed will make matters only worse in general. Read the tea leaves, voters are not just unhappy about healthcare reform and what is being thrown there way ,but what they see as ongoing political corruption in their eyes when ti comes to financial reform and the lack thereof as well as the unemployment situation.....

by BuckeyeBlogger 2010-01-20 12:57PM | 0 recs
Barney Frank Says Health Care is Dead!
The votes aren't there in the House to pass anything, and Frank is reduced to hoping that Olympia Snowe suddenly has an aneurysm and decides to bail out Obama and the Democrats by voting for a health care bill! Olympia Snowe would rather cut her own hand off at this point than vote for a bill. She'd be DEAD in the Republican party if she rescues the Democrats when every tea-bagger in the country is now convinced they are about to take back Congress in 2010 and the White House in 2012 and inaugurate another Bush Era!"I am a resident of Norton MA and Barney Frank is my congressman. I just called his office in DC and expressed my displeasure with his statement released last night especially the line "But our respect for democratic procedures must rule out any effort to pass a health care bill as if the Massachusetts election had not happened." I told him I didn't think we lost this election because of it was a Health Care Reform referendum but because we had a very weak Senate candidate. He agreed she did a lousy job campaigning. I told him we should just pass the Senate HCR and be done. He stated that all that would do was rile up the electorate and guarantee our further losses in November. I told him that caving in to Republican foot-dragging would kill the bill and we would not have HCR for another 15 years. He thought our best route was to try to get Snowe to come aboard with a revised Senate bill. I told him that was ridiculous, that the Republicans were emboldened by this win and I was incredulous that he thought there was any chance of getting even one Republican vote to make this bipartisan. Barney Frank insisted to me that there was not the vote in the House now to pass the Senate HCR. I asked him personally if he would vote to pass the Senate HCR as it stands and get it on Obama's desk. He said he would not vote yes on the Senate bill. He cited the abortion and plan tax portions of the bill for his opposition. He thought the Democrats were headed for heavy losses if they didn't drop the current HCR and try to pass some revised version."
by Cugel 2010-01-20 01:45PM | 0 recs
RE: Barney Frank Says Health Care is Dead!

after all of what has gone on this year, why am I still so surprised that many Democrats RAN AS FAST AS THEY CAN to the microphones to announce that are giving up and rolling over?

One party doesn't have the brains to govern, the other doesn't have the balls to govern



by jeopardy 2010-01-20 02:02PM | 0 recs
But God forbid

we should be tough on the banks, right buckeye?

by ND22 2010-01-20 02:14PM | 0 recs
RE: But God forbid

we shouldnt be handing them money while ignoring the fact that propping up the banks did nothing to resolve those with foreclosure issues. When we have Geithner and Bernanke perpetuating the mistakes and lies of the past and most of congress ignorning the mistakes they have made dating back to the early 90's, we are inly doomed to repeat the same mistake.

by BuckeyeBlogger 2010-01-20 02:20PM | 0 recs
Geez buckeye

you're the one who kept shilling for the same policies that you're now calling mistakes.

I will take you seriously when you start calling for taxing the banksters or nationalizing the banks...but every single time the Democrats even talked about the possibility of getting tough on the banks, you crowed right wing talking points. You called cramdown "corruption" when all it did was seek to resolve the foreclosure crisis.

I mean really, now you sound like a flaming liberal. Make up your mind dude.


by ND22 2010-01-20 02:31PM | 0 recs
RE: But God forbid

hey, good point--did you hear that today Citigroup who got $20billion in taxpayer bailout and lost $7 bil. last Quarter is going to give their executives $$$billions in "bonuses" for good job....

I wonder what Ole "Speak softly and I don't care if you hit me with your Stick" Obama will have to say about that....

More and more of my progressive friends think he is going down the same path as Jimmy Carter--one termer.....

We worked so hard to get voters to turn out Democratic in this region in 2006 and 2008 and now he's just flushing all that work down the toiler--I'm not working for him in 2012 if he doesn't start working like a President...i.e. Truman, FDR, LBJ...etc.

by hddun2008 2010-01-20 09:03PM | 0 recs
Well he can't

because people like buckeyeblogger think it's not nice to go after banks.

by ND22 2010-01-20 09:05PM | 0 recs
RE: I disagree

It was hard for me to get my head around the swift backlash against Democrats. In one year the party went from acceptable to toxic. The Republicans ran this country into the sewer right off the bat, yet it took years for support of their agenda to wane. Here we have the Dems following through on the agenda they campaigned on and suddenly we're the black seeds of damnation. I honestly didn't get it until I read a remark at TPM or the Dish or somewhere from a MA voter that really stuck with me.

The gist was that he was voting against the Dems because he was worried about the economy while it seemed the Dems spent all their time on HCR. The insinuation here is that the Dems have not done enough to address the concerns of John Q. Public, but instead are fixated on this arcane legislation.

I have a lot of those same feelings. When it is widely reported that bankers are having record profits while working people get kicked out of their jobs, homes or both... not hard to figure out where that leads at election time. It is apparent that the Dems had the political capital to get HCR passed by last fall, but since they buggered that they overstayed their welcome and now the price for their spinelessness is being paid.

Frankly, if they can't get HCR done by the first week of Feb then it should just fade the eff away. Yes, an arbitrary date, but the longer this legislation is in the news the more damage it will have in Nov.

Get HCR off the table either by passing it or dropping it then address foreclosures, unemployment and Wall Street. If there was ever a TR moment for BO, NOW is the time. Now would be a great moment to organize the Democratic caucus into a single focused entity against fat cat bankers. I don't know what kind of legislation could be passed, but he could call them out in the court of public opinion, show he is fighting for us and maybe salvage something in Nov.

But that is not his style. He's too cool for school and I've not seen him publically fight for shit so far so I'm not holding my breath.

by JerryColorado23 2010-01-20 02:18PM | 0 recs
Start by dumping Rahm

After a year of breaking promises and running away from the progressives and independents who elected him, Obama would do well to re-establish some credibility by getting rid of the major obstacle to a public option on the White House staff.  From taking the public option off the table to forcing Reid to cave in to Lieberman, Rahm is no friend to progressives.  Unceremoniously dumping Rahm would demonstrate that Obama is serious about changing strategy.

by pascal1947 2010-01-20 02:12PM | 0 recs
Obama is a likely one-term President

Many reasons I say that but mainly:

1. At this rate, he will still have unemployment level in 2012 of about 7.5% (that's very optimistic I think too).

2. Obama started day one advocating for people who DID NOT nor EVER WILL vote for him....know an bankers, healthcare CEO's, or auto dealer(s) / employee(s) who voted for him....I have never met one of those people--but he started day one to rescue them.

From day one he started to ignore the working classes.

3. Know any Republicans that want a black President--why did Obama feel it was so important to play nice to them--Bush and his Republican Congress in 2000 never consulted Democrats on anything.

4. He's arrogant and egotistical and out of touch with the working class (most are Democrats). Jimmy Carter was somewhat the same.How can Obama run a country where all the jobs, opportunities, etc. continued to be exported to Asia. Where 10% mostly Democratic voters are not employed. All he does is speak in platitudes which are meaningless.

5. Don't even get me started on his war policies--this is CRAZY--any President who presides over a mindless, endless war in a basketcase no account country will be defeated ala Bush and LBJ.

As for me, I worked hard to get him elected (knocking on doors, poll watching, etc.) but if a good / viable candidate come on in the primaries of 2012, I am working just as hard to oust him...

by hddun2008 2010-01-20 06:07PM | 0 recs
RE: Obama is a likely one-term President

For the record, Bush actually wasn't defeated for reelection.

by Steve M 2010-01-20 06:35PM | 0 recs


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